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Gary's Comments:The fact that the park wants to increase mountain bike and equestrian use in Clarence Fahnestock SP is commendable. For this to happen, there needs to be a detailed and enforceable plan to address the challenges this goal presents, such as:
Maintaining these trails: this must be done by the higher-intensity user groups; TC role would not be primary.
Mountain bikers are anxious to go, but the equestrians are reluctant to take on the work of trails. Unless that changes, or the park plans to maintain the equestrian trails, they should be shelved for the time being.
Building trails: new trails need to reflect the standards that are found in the State Trails Plan and Open Space Plan . This includes considerations of adequate width, surface materials, sight distances, one-way traffic flow for safety on single-track sections, environmentally responsible stream crossings. We understand there are groups and individuals willing to do this work.
Crossing the AT: This will not be likely for a cycling trail (process and precedent speak against it). Furthermore, the Trail Conference and its volunteers could not support it. However, Trail Conference volunteers knowledgeable about the terrain in that area would, in concert with committed mountain bike groups, participate in scouting for a suitable trail location of a loop in the northern sector of the park rather than crossing the AT. This would provide ample opportunity for mountain biking.
A caveat: Some hiking trail mileage would become shared use. Not all of it is suitable, and some single track hiking trails in particular would be severely compromised to make room for other users. We would prefer to see alternate trails for mountain bikes in these instances.
The Highlands Trail - intended and constructed as a footpath - is most suitable for crossing the AT, and that will not be so easy either. The crossing of the AT near the beach and parking lot would correspond to the proposed location of the Highlands Trail as presented to the Park Manager last year. In order to create a linear east-west trail across northern Putnam County, existing hiking trails would be designated as part of this trail network and new sections would be constructed to take advantage of open spaces and minimize the need to walk along busy roads.
Adding hiking trails: We note a couple of hiking trails starting from the DOT parking garage on Rte 302. Volunteers knowledgeable of that area do not consider them suitable or needed as hiking trails.
On the other hand, on the park lands east of the Taconic State Parkway the Highlands Trail continues for a great distance along this well-used road to the intersection with an old woods road that then heads southward. It would be possible to create a short hiking-only trail to take the Highlands Trail off this main road and meet up with the proposed location near the center of the woods road; it could be added to the plan as a conceptual trail and the Trail Conference would work with the park to find a desirable location.
The Highlands Trail continues from there to several NYC DEP lands, creating a string of open spaces, providing connectivity with protected lands under different ownerships and several communities along the way. Meanwhile, the Highlands Trail will be completed through Wonder Lake State Park this fall, and in due time a continuous trail through some of the county's most scenic lands and stunning viewpoints will be complete from the Hudson River to the Connecticut border.
Regarding the Trails Plan in Hudson Highlands SP: I was pleased to see the inclusion at the conceptual level of a segment of the Highlands Trail in the town of Nelsonville that would eliminate a long stretch of road walking as it exited the park heading east toward Fahnestock. Trail Conference volunteers look forward to working with the park to explore that possibility and continue building an exciting and rewarding long distance hiking trail experience on the Highlands Trail in 3 state parks in northern Putnam County.
Magerlein's and Walt's comments:
A new hiking trail is proposed going north from Rt. 301 from the old DOT facility about 1 mile east of Rt. 9. While this shows on the map as a woods road, it is in fact heavily overgrown and one part is very steep and not a good location for a sustainable trail. We propose that this trail be deleted from the plan.
After the Highlands Trail crosses to the east side of the Taconic State Parkway, it is proposed that it follow along Rt. 301 for about a mile. This is dangerous and unpleasant to walk or bike. The route should head south parallel to the Taconic as soon as possible after passing a wetlands immediately adjacent to the Taconic. It would then pick up the proposed route about half a mile south of Rt. 301.
3. The HT prefers not to be on multiuse trails but tolerates short sections. The AT prefers non-coalignment with other trails and forbids multiuse. The preferred route for the HT should be up to Picnic Point near the Wiccopee/Charcoal Burners and then across the Fresh Air piece to the snowshoe trail along the shore and to the beach. This results in a single crossing of the AT and no co-alignment with the AT.
A new hiking trail from the Lake Canopus beach heading north and ending at the Appalachian Trail is currently in the approval process. It should be added to the plan map. Also an existing blazed snowshoe trail heading north from the Lake Canopus beach parking area and heading north toward the AT is not shown on the map.
The proposed new bicycle trail running along the north park boundary is shown to cross the Appalachian Trail north of Canopus Lake. It is our understanding that such a crossing of the AT would require approval by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which will very rarely approve such a crossing. The Trail Conference will not recommend to the ATC that they approve. One alternative approach would be to change this into a lollipop shaped trail. Instead of the last segment heading east toward the AT, it could head west back toward the intersection with the Trout Brook Trail. While we would prefer not to see bicycle traffic on the current Wiccopee Trail, we can understand that this might be an appropriate route to gain access to the proposed new bicycle trail described here. A biking group would need to be found to build and maintain the new bicycle trail. We do not anticipate that the Trail Conference would be willing to do this.
We feel strongly that allowing bicycle traffic on the sections of the Perkins Trail where indicated on the map is not appropriate. This trail is steep and subject to erosion in places and this section has many trail junctions so that such a routing would invite unauthorized bicycle traffic on many other trails. Thus many user conflicts would be created. If it is desired to have another loop trail for bicycles, we instead suggest that bicycling be allowed on the eastern section of the East Mountain Loop. When that trail branches off to the west, a bicycle trail could continue along the woods road currently marked to be closed. Just before reaching the park boundary, a route could be found heading south back to the proposed new bicycle trail heading north from School Mountain Road. As mentioned above, a bicycle group would need to be found to build and maintain this trail.
We are interested in extending the Candlewood Hill Trail south toward Oscawana Lake into the area marked "Future Trail Development".
We would be interested in reopening the section of the 3 Lakes Trail which was closed a few years ago, though this is not a high priority. This runs south from the junction of the 3 Lakes and the Catfish Loop near the Duck Pond roughly following the route of the stream until it hits the Catfish Loop.
Geof's Comments:1. proposed hiking trails north.
a. None of the trails proposed for closure are maintained by us at present. It is not clear how these will be closed but, as some of these are used by ATVs it would have to be a "strong" closure.
b. Most of the proposed trails in the Beacon area i.e. down to the reservoir, are existing ATV trails. As such it is pointless to designate them as hiking trails (or try to maintain them as such) until the ATV problem is curtailed. In any case many of the proposed trails would not be used by hikers as there are existing and better alternatives.
c. The proposed trail from Notch to Cold Spring Reservoir and the new trail along Fishkill Ridge through Rodman would be welcome additions to the trail system as would be the University Camp-Notch-Casino trail; all others are of dubious use to hikers.
d. There is a proposed hiking trail from Beacon (Pocket Road) to the junction with Overlook trail. This would parallel the existing hiking trail and would serve no good purpose. It is, however, also shown as a proposed biking trail. This makes sense to keep hikers and bikers separate on this steep section of trail. The new trail should be designated bikes only (and be maintained by bikers).
2. Proposed Cycling trails North.
a. Except for the Notch (East trail from Duchess Junction, the majority of proposed cycling trails are on proposed hiking trails which are mainly superfluous to hiking, and which are at present ATV trails. It should be made clear the Trail Conference will not maintain these trails.
b. The Notch E trail is a wide woods road which would be OK for shared use but it is, at present, deeply rutted with ATV tracks as this is one of the two main ATV egress into the Highlands.
3. Proposed equestrian trails South.
These are all suitable for shared use (and are in fact shared at present by hikers, horses and cyclists).